Midnight Blue Serenity: Epilogue

John unzipped his jacket, appreciating the soft spring breeze that stirred his hair as he walked back to Baker Street, weaving through the other pedestrians as his thoughts centred on home. He'd been asked to do a half-shift at the surgery, dealing with endless coughs and sniffles. Now all he wanted was to get back to Sherlock, who he had left in a lethargic, naked sprawl in bed that morning.

A grin broke free at the memory, one which had appeared several times during the day, summoned forth by Sherlock's occasional, welcome texts. Nothing as sentimental as "I miss you", but the messages themselves, from those deducing his patients to something cryptic about one of John's jumpers, were sign enough that he was thinking of John in his absence.

It wasn't normal, what they had, not by a long-shot. However, John had come to realise that, despite his previous efforts to the contrary, "normal" wasn't what he was looking for. Other people wanted someone to kiss their cheek and curl up next to them in bed at night. John would rather have Sherlock's slender fingers pressing a gun into his palm, arming him for the case ahead. He preferred to allow the delicate strains of the violin – no longer angry and wailing, but tranquil and exquisite – to lull him to sleep, content in the knowledge that Sherlock would join him in their nest sooner or later.

Seven weeks had passed since this started. True to his word, they spent the first together in the privacy of their home. No cases interrupted, and Sherlock's healing aches meant they were gradually able to explore each other. John hadn't been convinced that Sherlock would be able to focus on someone else for a prolonged period of time – had been prepared for boredom to rear its ugly head within the first twenty-four hours – but Sherlock proved him beautifully wrong.

He took John apart like a puzzle, uncovering what made him laugh or sigh, moan or tremble. It was a dedicated scrutiny, one which encouraged equal reciprocation. John intended to become a masterful adept at the mysteries of Sherlock's body and the stunning man within. As it was, every time he could summon a groan or gasp from beneath Sherlock's iron-clad control it gave him a deep, potent thrill.

Eventually, though, real life interceded on their idyll. Both the surgery and the Work intruded, and the two of them were forced to face the challenge of building their relationship while navigating the other summons on their time.

John expected a god-awful disaster of give and take - Sherlock making demands and John doing all the compromise – but truthfully, they'd done all that long ago. Their lives already fit together seamlessly, and most of the ground-rules had been in place for months. They were still the same as they had always been, but now there was more to it – a greater depth and another blurring of the boundaries they continually ignored. These days, John got a kiss when he handed Sherlock a cup of tea, and Sherlock welcomed John's gestures of affection, at first with surprise, and then with increasing enjoyment.

What they'd forged together worked, and while part of John was surprised, he realised it made a devastating kind of sense. He and Sherlock had complemented each other since the moment they met. Why would this be any different? Why would it fail when their friendship succeeded?

He shook his head, trotting around the corner and pausing in front of a shop selling TVs and other appliances. One of the screens was running BBC One, the presenter mouthing silently as the red banner declared the breaking news. Normally, it was something distant and detached from John's life, but the latest words stuttering across the screen in bland white text was excruciatingly relevant, and a grim smile crossed his face as he read their missive. A second later, his phone shuddered in his pocket, and he pulled it free, reading Sherlock's terse message.

"The twins have received the maximum possible sentence each. No chance of parole.-SH"

It was like someone lifting the last of a great burden from his shoulders. The weight had depleted with every day that passed, chased away by Sherlock's presence, his healing and his returning grace. It was a passage marked by the removal of dressings, then stitches, the drawing closed of split skin and the pink flush of wounds as they began to fade.

Now though, with the twins' punishment daubed all over the main media, it was well and truly over.

Sherlock hadn't even been called upon to testify. John suspected the interference of Mycroft and the clever manipulation of procedure by Lestrade in that aspect, but the truth was, it wasn't necessary. Between their efforts and the rigorous pursuit of the police, the prosecution was merciless in their portrayal of the evidence. They had even found what was left of Nathan Brantley's body. The remains surrendered the final answers, and by the time Matt and David's trial began, not even a guilty plea could spare them the weight of the jury's verdict or the judge's decision.

Uncertainty tempered John's triumph, and he squinted at Sherlock's text again, trying to discern anything about his mood from the nondescript words. However, the tiny, digital lettering gave nothing away, and he picked up his pace, eager to be back at Sherlock's side.

If he had known that the verdict would come today, he would have declined the shift at the surgery and made sure he was wherever Sherlock wanted him to be. It did not matter that, on the surface at least, Sherlock seemed as disinterested in the court process as usual. The outcome of this trial in particular had an impact on them both, and John would rather have been there in case Sherlock needed him, if only for silent support.

With a scrape of steel on brass, he shoved the key into the lock of 221, letting himself in before trotting upstairs and repeating the process on the door to their flat. Immediately, he glanced around, taking in the usual clutter of paperwork and books, glass slides and the silent sentry of the microscope. 'Sherlock?' he called, wishing he could push aside the ripple of trepidation in his stomach. It made no logical sense for Sherlock to be adversely affected by this now. He seemed to have found his catharsis in solving the case, putting all that Matt had said and done behind him without looking back.

Still, that didn't mean John wasn't going to check on him.

'Sherlock, where are you?'

'Bathroom.' There was nothing tight or strained about his reply. It was a normal tone of voice, lacking in the minute tells of distress or anger that John had come to recognise over their time as flatmates. Instead it was just Sherlock, probably up to his elbows in viscera in the sink or something equally disgusting.

'You all right?' John asked anyway, knowing better than to make assumptions, despite his gut telling him that Sherlock was fine.

The hum of agreement he got made the corner of his lips curve upwards, and it broke into another grin as Sherlock called back. 'Of course. Are you?'

It was probably the world's most unnecessary question. Sherlock could tell the precise hue of his mood from the cadence of his footsteps and the lilt of his voice. However, it was one of the small changes of which John approved. Oh, Sherlock still deduced. He still looked at John with that mercurial gaze, one sweep from the crown of his head to the soles of his shoes and back up again that left John breathless and tingling, but now he would occasionally remember to ask for John's input before reeling off everything from where he'd been to whom he'd seen and what he wanted for dinner.

'Yeah. I'm going to get changed. Get the smell of the surgery off me.' At least no one had thrown up on him today, but there was still that pervasive, institutional scent clinging to his clothes, and he would prefer to get rid of it sooner rather than later. 'Back down in a minute.'

He hurried upstairs to his room, oft-neglected now. He and Sherlock hadn't talked about sharing a bed permanently. Still, even when Sherlock had no plans to sleep in it himself, he had a tendency to nudge John over to the wide sprawl of his mattress and the soft splay of Egyptian cotton sheets. At first, John had been hesitant, but before more than a few nights passed, he realised that his chances of Sherlock going to bed at some point during the darkest hours were greatly increased if John was there. If that meant his sleep was interrupted by cold toes and warm murmurs of appreciation, then he could live with that.

All his clothes were still up here though, a distinct boundary between Sherlock's things and his – a small sliver of space that was just John's. He'd half-expected Sherlock to invade and set up a laboratory, but surprisingly, he was as respectful of the invisible border of the threshold as he had ever been. Admittedly, that wasn't much, but it seemed he was amenable to John keeping a tiny part of the flat to himself.

Opening up the wardrobe, he examined the shirts on hangers and the knitwear on the shelf above, catching his gaze in the mirror on the inside of the door and giving his reflection a critical examination.

He looked happy. Not something he had experienced often since well-before coming back from Afghanistan. He was content, yes, once he'd joined Sherlock here in Baker Street, and purposeful, but there was always something missing. Now, his eyes gleamed and his mouth seemed quicker to smile than to grimace. Sherlock might be unorthodox, dangerous and more than a little bit mad sometimes, but it was clear that he was exactly what John needed.

Reaching his hands over his shoulders to drag off his jumper, he heard the sound of Sherlock ambling up the stairs to find him, deliberately treading on squeaky steps to announce his presence. A faint huff of laughter from the threshold made its way through the wool that was currently over John's head, and he grunted in annoyance, inexplicably caught within the labyrinth of sleeves and the tight knit weave.

When he finally pulled it off, it was to find a sheet of paper being dangled in front of his face, blocking his view of the mirror. It still bore two folds where it had been shoved into an envelope, and concise typeface was present under the NHS heading. 'Have you been opening my post?' he demanded, not bothering to glare over his shoulder at Sherlock as he snatched the page. 'I know "private and confidential" doesn't mean much to you, but –'

'I was bored,' Sherlock interrupted, the warmth of his body pressing against John's back as he stepped closer. One arm curled around his waist as he propped his pointy chin on John's shoulder. 'Besides, it's pointless confirmation of what I already know. If you were harbouring any vile diseases I would have deduced it by now.'

'I'm a doctor. You'll have to forgive me if I put more stock in a blood-test than your observations about my well-being.' He shrugged, his faint ire at the intrusion – never that great to begin with, this was Sherlock after all – fading as he read over the clean bill of sexual health. 'Besides, they checked your blood out of necessity at the hospital, remember? It only seemed fair that I eventually did the same since we're, you know, being exclusive and everything.'

John swallowed, deliberately not looking up to meet Sherlock's gaze in the mirror. The truth was, they'd never actually had that particular conversation. Not properly. John had just assumed, and now he was trying very hard not to act like Sherlock next words could break him.

He seemed to read it anyway, because the soft brush of that Cupid's bow against the side of John's neck punctuated his single-word reply. 'Obviously.' He chuckled as an ill-hidden sigh of relief became a gasp of pleasure, called forth by the bold swipe of Sherlock's tongue against John's throat. Long fingers flicked the collar of the shirt open for better access, and the arm around his waist tightened, perfectly possessive.

At last, John looked up from the page of test results, taking in their shared reflection. Sherlock's face was turned into the crook of John's neck, mostly hidden, leaving him with a view of dark curls which glowed chestnut in the sunlight that streamed through the window. It gave the white shirt Sherlock wore an unearthly brilliance, the sleeves folded meticulously up to his elbows to expose long, smooth forearms and the delicate turn of his wrists.

Along with the dark suit trousers and socks he was wearing, it made him a picture of monochrome: silver and black in comparison to the subtle tan of John's skin and the ashy blonde of his hair. However, he barely paid any attention to his own image, his hips stuttering as Sherlock scraped his teeth across the vulnerability of John's throat.

Sherlock turned his head, catching John's eye in the mirror. A sudden, sharp curl of pure desire sliced through his stomach, leaving his nerves resonating in its wake. Sherlock's body might be an image of black and white, but his face was not. The faintest flush rode high on his cheekbones, imenting the feral, pink curve of his lips. However, it was his eyes that held John's attention: silver edged with green and outlined in sultry, enticing –

'Eye-liner,' John managed, the air in his lungs useless, lost in the thudding rush of yearning-cum-confusion that swirled through his blood. 'You're wearing eye-liner.'

He hummed in agreement, one eyebrow lifted in speculation as he took in John's image. It was so quintessentially Sherlock that the tiny skitter of uncertainty beneath John's ribs perished instantly. It would have been simple to draw the connection back to the investigation that had finally come to rest today and the stresses that came with it, but it was not "Lee" looking at him with lust darkening his eyes. Sherlock wore no mask. Everything in his expression was familiar: a naked honesty that took John's breath away.

Still, he had to make sure they were on the same page. 'You did this for a case?' He sounded wrecked, an almost-whine catching in his throat, but he did not give a damn as Sherlock smiled before nuzzling at John's jaw again.

'No,' he purred, his voice a sensuous skim of sound that curled in John's ear. 'I did it for you, for the look on your face –' He kissed the vulnerable skin at John's pulse and slid his hand down, darting around the buttons of John's shirt and lower, brushing the very tips of his fingers over the swelling heat beneath John's fly and giving a quiet groan of approval. '– and for that.'

John let his head fall back, one hand reaching behind him to grab the lush curve of Sherlock's arse and pull him closer. At least he wasn't the only one aroused, judging by the thrust of Sherlock's crotch against him, and he struggled to put some order to his blissfully scattered thoughts as Sherlock's fingers teased open another button on John's shirt, slipping beneath the cotton to stroke over the faint swell of John's stomach.

'You don't have to wear eye-liner to turn me on,' he pointed out. It was a redundant statement, since the past couple of months had demonstrated perfectly how much power Sherlock held over him. He knew from the start he would be doomed. All Sherlock had to do was look at him in a certain way, all heat and suggestion, and whatever John was doing became utterly unimportant in comparison to being in Sherlock's company. It didn't matter whether he was in a pristine suit or a ratty t-shirt and pyjamas, Sherlock was well and truly in charge of John's libido.

The only consolation was that, oddly enough, he seemed to have the same influence over Sherlock. Several experiments had fallen to ruin thanks to their happy distractions. A small part of John wondered if he should feel guilty about luring the genius from his work, but it was hard to find the energy for repentance when Sherlock poured all that focus and intelligence into their intimacy.

'No,' Sherlock agreed, rocking his hips and making John bite his lip. 'But you'd be lying if you said it didn't have an impact on your response, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find your reactions fascinating.'

John's laugh was a ghostly shiver of mirth. Only Sherlock could make it sound inherently sexy to be the subject of an experiment. The piece of paper in his hands fluttered to the floor, released from his grip in favour of grasping more interesting things. He ignored its crumpled protest beneath his boot as he turned in Sherlock's arms, trying not to tremble as he arched against that lean body.

'Fascinating?' he repeated, watching inky lashes quiver as John rubbed against him. He smiled as Sherlock growled, tilting his head and meeting the demanding kiss in equal measure, scraping lightly over the flesh of Sherlock's pout before slipping inside. He stroked his tongue past Sherlock's teeth as his fingers dipped into the open vee of his collar, clumsily slipping free more buttons until the cotton gaped, white wings slipping off alabaster shoulders.

He didn't peel Sherlock's arms free from the rolled-up sleeves. There would be time for that in a moment. For now he planned to enjoy the attentions of that mouth, concentrated yet artless – pleasurable in a way that came from hours of breath-taking practice in each other's arms. Sherlock knew when to push for more or pull away, just as John could distinguish when a chaste brush of lips would tantalise far more than the thrust of his tongue. He didn't even have to think about it anymore. They simply enjoyed the taste of each other, their hands exploring warm skin as tiny, feverish sounds of appreciation caught in the air.

John barely noticed his shirt had been undone until Sherlock made an approving noise at the bare skin beneath. He had complained about John wearing an additional t-shirt, as if the very act of layering for warmth was some kind of abomination. Now its absence meant that Sherlock's hands could wander John's ribs, his thumbs sweeping over hard nipples before trailing around to John's shoulder-blades. Only there did they diverge, one charting down the notches of his spine while the other curled around John's nape, guiding the angle of the kiss until their air ran out and John's nerves hummed to Sherlock's tune.

Breaking back, he inhaled sharply, taking in the sight of the man before him. It was ridiculous, really, that the smoky lines around Sherlock's eyes could tighten his lust into something so intense. It was an attraction that was all about physical appearance, but right now, John could see precisely why it appealed to him so much.

Sherlock's shirt was still bunched around his arms, completely forgotten. The sharp lines of his clavicles and the definition of his chest should have been vulnerable in their exposure, but instead all John could think was that, as debauched as he appeared, swollen-lipped and heavy-eyed, Sherlock looked dangerous. There was no "could be" about it.

Normally, that strength was concealed beneath the mask of his suits and his aloof expressions, but now, Sherlock was predatory, his eyes storm-cloud dark and his lips parted. He freed John from his shirt and kissed the exposed underside of each wrist as the garment fell to the floor with a hush of surrender. His hands drifted in adulation, and John shut his eyes against the assault of sensation: acute need tempered only by the balm of affection. Even now, half-naked and both of them so wanting, there was more to this than just sex.

'Downstairs?' he croaked, thinking of various supplies that were in Sherlock's bedside table. His mind stilled as Sherlock produced a tube of lubrication from his pocket, holding it up with a triumphant smirk before he pulled his arms from the white restraint of his sleeves.

'Seeing as how neither of us are carrying any sexually transmitted diseases, I'm assuming we can dispense with the condoms?' he murmured, handing over the lube, his gaze bright and carnal.

Heat lurched through John's body, and he closed his eyes as he tried to rein in the flood of wanton desperation. His knees wobbled and the constriction of his jeans increased as his blood rushed to the surface, gifting his skin with a thudding flush.

His mind was nothing but a jumble of images, each falling over the other as his voice threatened to crack in his throat. Normally, he didn't put much stock in first-time anything, but there was a level of permanence to unprotected sex, something that spoke about more than a transient fling, and John knew precisely how he wanted this encounter to go.

'You'll be the one using this, then.' He pressed the tube back into Sherlock's palm, watching him absorb the request. 'If that's okay?'

'More than okay,' Sherlock promised, his lips curving in a wicked smile as he claimed John's mouth again.

The edgy hunger abated, and what remained in its wake was something tender and diligent – Sherlock bending his concentration to John's gratification rather than his own. They weren't fussy about who penetrated whom, tending to go with what felt right at the time. Weeks of experimenting, much to John's delight, had demonstrated that neither of them lacked imagination when it came to sex, in all its forms. More to the point, Sherlock had no compunction about asking for what he wanted. The results so far had been immensely satisfying, and he doubted this time would be any different.

Sherlock's lips lingered along his jaw and down his neck, his tongue tracing idle pathways as his fingers moved with more purpose, finding every dip and hollow and charting their boundaries. It was overwhelming by degrees, and John tipped back his head in entreaty as he delighted in Sherlock's warmth. Every breath he drew was lilted with the scent of shampoo and skin, and John's hands couldn't stay still as he traced the expanse of Sherlock's shoulders, the curve of his biceps and the corrugation of his spine. He read the familiar story of flesh and bone as every answering touch stilled his thoughts: a blissful invasion.

The drag of Sherlock's thumb over his denim-clad erection made John jolt, and the rasp of his fly underscored his helpless whimper. Sherlock dipped beneath the fabric of his jeans and underwear to touch the sensitive head of John's cock. It was a deliberate tease, and John forced himself to hold his hips steady. It wasn't a case of whether Sherlock would unravel him and leave him panting in the aftermath; it was simply a matter of how quickly he would do it.

Well, John was not about to make it easy.

With a downward slide of his hand, he wrapped his fingers around the solid length between Sherlock's legs, concealed as it was by the thin fabric of his suit trousers. The cut was flattering, as always, but they did very little to shield John's hand from the heat there, and he groaned a laugh of delight as he flexed his grip and watched Sherlock sway into his palm.

'You're distracting me,' Sherlock husked, his voice a promising growl that made the hairs on John's arms shiver upright.

'Good, that's the – Ah!' Heat arced from his chest to his crotch as Sherlock laved his tongue across John's right nipple. The vulnerable flesh bordered on ticklish until Sherlock solidified the sensation with a cautious scrape of his teeth. Whatever John had been going to say was blown out of his mind as he leant back against the side of the wardrobe and closed his eyes, losing himself to the worship of Sherlock's clever tongue and his magical hands.

He was keeping him deliberately off-balance, his attentions erratic and disorganised. By the time he pushed jeans and underwear down John's thighs and licked along the underside of his erection, John was whining helplessly, caught in the unpredictable maelstrom of awareness. It was a wave he was struggling to ride with anything like poise. His fingers nestled in dark curls and skittered blindly over the sharp edge of Sherlock's cheekbones. A second later, moist heat engulfed him, and John tried not to let his legs give out as want stabbed through his stomach.

'Oh, God.' He cradled Sherlock's face, feeling him hollow his cheeks beneath his fingers as the draw of suction and the swipe of Sherlock's tongue made his thighs shake. One of Sherlock's hands was wrapped around the base of John's cock, but the other one was conspicuously absent, and John finally managed to drag his eyes open and get a good look at the man in front of him.

Sherlock was on his knees with his thighs spread, eyes closed and lips stretched around John's width as he concentrated on what he was doing. His left hand, the one that wasn't occupied with holding John steady and occasionally tightening around him, was pushed into his own open fly, the muscles in his forearm tensing and shifting as he gave himself the occasional stroke in the confined space.

'Fuck,' John whispered, trying not to thrust forward into Sherlock's mouth and failing miserably. The next thing he knew, those eyes were open again, agleam with an odd mix of disapproval, amusement and arousal. If anything, John thought Sherlock would have looked submissive, a pretty boy knelt in reverence. However, there was nothing passive or obliging about his appearance, and a fiery ribbon uncurled through him as he scrabbled at those strong shoulders, smothering his moans as Sherlock worked him so thoroughly.

'Bed,' he croaked. 'Bed, I need –' He didn't know what he needed. More. More of this, more of Sherlock, more than the strange, distanced intimacy of that sultry mouth around his cock. He ached for Sherlock's naked skin against his own, and he gave no apology as he hauled Sherlock to his feet, swallowing his keen of protest in a kiss as his fingers dove beneath the fabric of those tailored trousers and curled around him.

They staggered towards the bed, John trying to get out of his boots without untying his laces and almost falling over as a result. Clothes were a sacrilege, and taking his hands from Sherlock's body to remove them was a blasphemy. John found himself having to remember to breathe, to coordinate the desperate, singing resonance of his body with his lingering coherence as he ripped off his shoes and peeled away his socks, eagerly shoving away the last of his clothes. He reached out to do the same to Sherlock, dragging aside the obscuring veil of trousers and underwear from Sherlock's lifted hips and pushing them blindly off the bed.

With a hum of delight, he rubbed his cheek against Sherlock's arousal, inhaling the musk of him and stealing a taste before Sherlock flipped them over. His frame lay, heavy and perfect, over John's, lighting him up like a completed circuit. There was still haste to their caresses, but gradually, Sherlock seemed to rein himself in, the struggle to do so evident in the shiver of his hands and the forced, steady rhythm of each exhale. One of the very best things about Sherlock's control, in John's opinion, was the visceral joy he got from pushing at it until it snapped – until Sherlock lost himself as readily as John in the slew of longing.

However, before he could formulate a plan of attack, the click of the tube lid being opened punctuated the air. A moment later, cool fingers slid down and back, the pad of Sherlock's thumb teasing at him as the delicious contrast of hot lips and tongue were added to the mix. It was almost embarrassing how very effective the technique was. It was nothing special, nothing John hadn't experienced before with other people and yet it was. There was nothing awkward about it, and nothing choreographed either. Sherlock was tender and flatteringly eager, humming around John's length at every shattered gasp and stifled whine.

Like this, Sherlock's nude warmth pinned his legs. He could feel the weight and want of him even as he reached down and tried to absorb more of Sherlock through every touch. He cocked his knees obscenely wide, tilting his hips and arching his head back into the pillow as Sherlock inched a slick finger inside, the magic of his mouth detracting from any twinge of discomfort.

Sweat dewed John's temples, and his lips were parched from the rapid pants that flew between them. However, the sensations were overpowered by the confident pull and torment of Sherlock's mouth on John's cock and the shivery, knife-edge of ecstasy that crystallised as soon as the teasing explorations around John's prostate rubbed over it instead.

It was difficult to know whether to love him or hate him, because while every touch and lick and kiss was attuned to giving John exactly what he wanted, he could also detect Sherlock's awareness of his responses. It was annoying, how high-functioning the bastard could be. The instant tension knotted at the base of John's spine and heat threatened to surge through him, Sherlock would back off, easing away the encroaching rush of John's climax to leave him swearing, half-sobbing for what he really wanted.

He hadn't noticed Sherlock gradually working him open. There had been the occasional moment when enjoyment turned to a faintly burning stretch, but Sherlock's careful preparation meant John had no qualms about tightening his grip in Sherlock's hair, urging him to lift his head even as the words spilt from his lips.

'Sherlock, Sherlock, please.' He didn't have to specify, which was just as well, because he was too busy thinking of the throb of arousal in his stomach and his cock, tightening his balls and sending shivering, electric waves across his muscles.

'Roll onto your front,' Sherlock ordered, and any control in his possession could not be spared for his voice, which was low and rough and impossible to refuse. Normally, Sherlock preferred to penetrate him face-to-face – occasionally awkward – but it meant he could deduce exactly what angle John enjoyed the most. This, though, this was how John liked it: the weight of Sherlock on his back, John's lesser height working in their favour and Sherlock's fingers digging in around his hips hard enough to bruise.

'For God's sake, tell me if I hurt you,' Sherlock husked, bending his head to suck a mark at the tail of his spine as John shifted position.

'I will.' He got up on his knees, his cock hanging hard and heavy between his legs, dewy at the head and aching to be touched.

He gasped, biting his lip as Sherlock advanced into him, giving him all the time he needed to adjust. He nudged his knees wider and murmured meaningless sentiments over John's sweat-glossed skin, things that made John smile and swallow before he pushed his arse back, chuckling at the hiss of Sherlock's indrawn breath.

Strong fingers bit into his hips in warning, and John wondered how much Sherlock had wound himself up while he'd been lying between John's legs, tormenting him. Too much, perhaps, judging by the tension in the body behind him, like a man trying very hard to hold his balance on the high-wire. John realised they were kidding themselves if they thought either one was in control. Sherlock's entrance had drawn John back from the brink, but it was a small distance. Whatever happened next, he doubted either of them would last long.

Perfect.

With a grin that Sherlock couldn't see, John cautiously squeezed his core muscles, basking in the ragged flow of Sherlock's gasped curse before he shifted forward, starting a slow, dragging rhythm. It was different without a condom, an alternative, organic smoothness, and a shiver of lust shot through John's body at the thought of Sherlock and him like this, nothing separating them from each other.

A tiny shift in angle, and John jerked, his arms shaking too hard to support his weight as sparks flared along his nerves, coalescing into pathways of constant, singing need. Every time Sherlock brushed his prostate, he added more fuel to the fire, and John rested his head on his right forearm, his left hand reaching down to stroke himself, rough and chaotic as he sought some friction.

Sherlock leaned forward, gifting kisses over the ridges of his shoulder-blades. His breathing was a pulsing whisper that heated John's skin as he reached around, his hand wrapping over John's and conducting the beat.

Instinctively, he focussed on the responsive head of John's dick, rubbing and stroking until their fingers were damp with pre-come. John was lost in a garbled litany of praise, his mind vanquished by the rushing, jagged furore as Sherlock's strokes grew longer and more rapid, driving him onwards into blissful oblivion.

The slam of his release drove a sharp grunt from his chest and clenched the muscles in his abdomen. Fluid pulsed across his knuckles and the sheets, and John dug his forehead into the mattress, his chest heaving with every gasp of air as his body shuddered through the aftermath, tightening around Sherlock's twitching, buried length.

It took him a second to realise Sherlock had climaxed not long after him, probably pulled unceremoniously over by John's orgasm. He could feel him shaking, bent over John's body as if he had been knifed in the gut. Parted lips pressed to John's spine as his arms framed John's hips, supporting his trembling weight as he spent himself, torrid and deep.

Sensitive nerves shimmered and twinged, and the ache of John's knees penetrated the addled haze, making him shift to ease the discomfort. The movement sent another wave of electricity through him, and Sherlock moaned softly, leaning more fully on John as they got their breath back, his hands stroking up John's sides and over his shoulders as he nosed John's damp skin.

'All right?' Sherlock managed, his rich chuckle breaking free at John's sated, affirmative murmur. 'Better than all right?'

John grinned into the mattress, hissing as Sherlock gently withdrew. The skim of his fingers down John's body and between his arse-cheeks made him jolt in surprise, another aftershock rippling through him at the wet slide of Sherlock's fingers over delicate flesh. 'Stop fishing for compliments,' he husked, licking his dry lips and wondering if he dared to try and move. 'You knew exactly what I wanted, and you gave it to me. You always do.'

Something soft swept over him, cleaning up most of the mess, and John finally lifted his head, shooting Sherlock a half-hearted glare as he realised it was his boxers taking the brunt of it. 'Couldn't you have used yours?'

'I don't know where they've gone.' Sherlock's smile was crooked and bright as John straightened up, wincing at the ache of the taut muscles in his thighs and the lethargic spin of his blood in his veins. He was spent in every way imaginable, drained but happy in the aftermath, and he didn't utter a word of complaint as Sherlock peeled back the covers before guiding John into the folds of their cocoon.

Maybe he should be embarrassed that they hadn't actually made it into bed, but it was far from the first time, and he doubted it would be the last. Besides, it meant most of the wet patch was on the quilt cover, which could be peeled off and washed, and the inner face of the covers was clean and comfortable.

John curled on his side, folding his body around Sherlock's artless sprawl. The sheet was twisted low around their hips, the bed's neat hospital corners a thing of distant memory, and John smiled as he took in the sight of his sated lover. A flush lingered beneath Sherlock's skin, staining his chest and cheeks with a touch of pink. His hair was a serpentine glory of curls, but it was the eye-liner that made him grin. The clean lines had blurred into cloudy smudges, appealing only because John could revel in the recollection of the activities that had been their undoing.

Gently, he rubbed his thumb under Sherlock's right eye, holding it up in evidence as Sherlock raised an eyebrow. 'I think I like this look on you.'

'A mess?'

'A satisfied mess,' John corrected, pressing a firm, loving kiss to Sherlock's brow, urging him to nestle closer. Sherlock's drowsy hum of contentment made John's heart squeeze, and he let his fingers trace the line of Sherlock's nape before edging softly over the healing flesh that marked his shoulder.

John sighed, staring blankly at nothing as he read the story of the wound by touch alone. The skin was smooth beneath his fingertips, the occasional divot and ridge in its surface indicating the damage that was still slowly melting away beneath.

He had been worried that the bite would serve as a reminder of what had happened that night in Mortland Street. In some ways, it was a justified fear. It was another scar Sherlock would carry his whole life, but as John explored the strange veneer of new skin, he found himself thinking that the mark reflected more than Matt's actions. It was a sign of Sherlock's strength, and the product of hours of diligent care. Without John's attentions, it could have been much worse. As it was, the stain it left on the canvas of Sherlock's body would one day be nothing but a silver phantasm. With any luck, the memories would also pale with the passage of time.

'Stop it,' Sherlock murmured, catching John's wrist and drawing his fingers to his lips, kissing the tips tenderly. 'It's fine. It hasn't hurt for weeks.'

'I know,' he replied, nudging Sherlock's cheek with his nose and settling down into the pillows, his body heavy and lax. 'It's just –' He pursed his lips, shaking his head as he cast away the intrusive wisps of regret. Not for anything they had done or shared, but for the brutality of the case that had acted as a catalyst to bring them to this point. 'Never mind.'

He expected Sherlock to push him and demand he expose his pointless thoughts for his perusal. Yet for once, he stayed quiet, cinched comfortably against John's side, their legs entwined and their arms draped haphazardly over each other's bodies. It was peaceful, an oasis of calm in the hectic whirl of their coexistence, and John luxuriated in the sanctuary he found in Sherlock's arms.

Warm and secure, surrounded by the lingering fragrance of sex and Sherlock, John closed his eyes, his absent thoughts taking on the misty quality of a shallow doze. He was still aware of the flat around them and the hum of the city beyond the window, but they were insignificant disturbances which did not intrude on their peace.

A gurgling growl finally pulled him back to the surface, making him crack one eye and glare at the perpetrator. Sherlock seemed to pick up on his scrutiny, wrinkling his nose as his stomach rumbled its betrayal again.

'When did you last eat?' John asked, stretching his arms above his head and pointing his toes as he smothered a yawn. 'I'm guessing no lunch. Did you have breakfast after I left?'

'I had a cup of tea.' Sherlock looked unrepentant as John sighed, flicking an errant curl back from Sherlock's forehead before propping himself up on his elbow. The bedside clock told him, through a thin veneer of dust, that it was around about dinner-time anyway, and he reached over the edge of the bed, rummaging in the pile of clothes on the floor for his phone.

'What are you doing?'

'Can't you deduce it?' John teased, jabbing the keys to find the number.

Sherlock blinked his eyes open like a man trying to escape the clingy temptation of sleep. With a grunt, he dragged John closer and kissed his shoulder. 'Getting take-away. Thai from the place down the road because it's close – the food will be here in ten minutes – and we've not had it for a fortnight.'

John grinned, not bothering to answer as he spoke their favourite order into the phone. It was sad that the people on the other end didn't even need to ask for the address; they knew his voice too well for that. He hung up a moment later, putting his mobile on the bedside table and sitting up, groaning as he swung his legs over the side of the mattress.

'Where are you going?' Sherlock complained. 'Mrs Hudson can get it.' He pouted as John snorted in disbelief, reaching for his jeans and pulling them on over his bare flesh. His underwear wasn't fit to be worn, thanks to its contribution to clean-up.

'Mrs Hudson is out visiting friends, and even if she wasn't, I expect she'd draw the line at bringing us post-sex food while you lounge around starkers in bed.' He swatted Sherlock's arse. 'Since you're clearly not going to get up, then I have to, and at the very least I should get dressed and wash my hands before answering the door.'

'Might want to do something about your hair, too.' Sherlock turned over, looking for all the world like he planned on going back to sleep as he smirked. 'It's not leaving much in any doubt.'

With a sigh, John grabbed his shirt, slipping it on and doing up a few of the buttons. He ignored his boots and socks, treating himself to one last admiring glance at Sherlock's supine form before he slipped out of the room and padded down the stairs.

His body ached with the stretch of muscles and a slightly more intimate discomfort, but it was nothing too bad, and John shouldered his way into the bathroom, washing his hands and sorting out his hair. Normally, he'd jump in the shower, but considering that he had no intention of setting foot outside Baker Street again today, he decided it could wait. At least until he'd made sure Sherlock had eaten.

Distantly, he heard footsteps padding across the floor upstairs, and he arched an eyebrow in surprise. John hadn't thought Sherlock would bother rousing. However, perhaps he was remembering the last (glorious, laughing, ridiculous) time they'd had take-away in bed. He'd complained about the soy sauce stains on the sheets for weeks.

A knock at the front door grabbed John's attention, and he trotted down to answer it, pulling Sherlock's wallet from the pocket of the Belstaff. He thanked the familiar delivery boy as he took the packages from his grasp and handed over the cash. The fragrance of plentiful salt and fried vegetables assailed his nose, and John hummed in appreciation as he closed out the cool evening air and made his way back up to the flat.

He expected Sherlock to be waiting impatiently at the table for sustenance, but there was no sign of him. John set down the bags, listening to the stillness of the building. Had he imagined he'd heard Sherlock getting up? Had he gone back to sleep after all?

'Sherlock?' he called, frowning when there was no reply. With a quick glance back at the food on the table, he sighed before climbing upwards, his bare feet making little sound on the steps. 'Sherlock, what are you –' He trailed off sharply as he shouldered aside the door, taking in the scene within.

Sherlock was dressed in his underwear and shirt, the cuffs rolled back up around his elbows and the buttons undone. He was on his knees as if he had been rummaging under the bed, probably looking for his trousers within the shadows. However, it was not his apparel that made John freeze, the warmth of affection turning leaden and Arctic in his stomach. It was the box in his hands.

The smooth wood gleamed, its grain vibrant beneath the span of Sherlock's fingertips. He hadn't opened it to reveal the syringe and needles within, the paraphernalia of his habit, but they both knew they were there: Pandora's curse waiting to be unleashed.

John bit his tongue, holding back the string of curses that burned beneath his ribs. He should have hidden it better. He'd meant to do so the moment he got the time, but in the rush of the case it had slipped his mind. Then, when the drama was over, he instead focussed on Sherlock and sex, thinking more with his heart and his dick than his actual brain.

He clenched his hands into fists, hating the look on Sherlock's face. He hadn't even lifted his head as John entered. At first glance, he seemed like a man under a siren's thrall. The fingers of his right hand rubbed back and forth across the polish, as softly as they had caressed John's skin earlier that day, and a new tension twisted his frame, seeking a different kind of gratification.

'Sherlock?' he spoke quietly, not even sure that he could hear him through whatever fugue appeared to have him in its grasp. He shifted, fighting the urge to stride forward and knock the hateful case from those violinist's hands, but that was not how this could go. It would be the beginning of the same old battle, one where someone stood between Sherlock and the stimulants he wanted. Except, instead of Mycroft, it would be John, and that was not the place he wanted to hold in Sherlock's life.

Clenching his jaw, he forced himself to observe, watching the subtle play of emotions across Sherlock's face. It was a challenge, but his scrutiny was rewarded as he took in his profile. What he had originally identified as longing was not nearly so straight-forward. There was something similar, a kind of weary hunger in Sherlock's eyes, but it was eclipsed by the slant of distaste in the line of his lips. His fingers quivered, outlining the hinges and the catch that held it shut, but he did not pull the lid open as a shivering sigh stirred the air.

'Shaw said it was necessary. Did I tell you that?' Sherlock looked up. 'Said it made me shine.'

John closed his eyes, knowing it was a sentiment that Sherlock shared. He could still remember him explaining about his drug use – how it made him excel, his deductions more precise and dazzling than ever. The yearning in his voice had made John nauseous. Now, there was no echo of it in Sherlock's words, and John chewed on his tongue, forcing himself to remain silent as he waited for him to continue.

He looked down at the container again, turning it over and around in his hands like a child exploring a new toy, and John heard the musical chime of glass from within – a tempting bell calling an addict to prayer. There was still a sharpness to Sherlock's expression, something in him that clearly longed to answer its call, yet he kept the lid shut tight against the world.

Something snapped, a tangible change in the air that made John blink. Sherlock shook his head in a sharp motion, casting off whatever thoughts had him in their spell as he thrust the box in John's direction. 'Give it to Lestrade. He'll be able to dispose of it.' His arm shook, the wood rattling as it broadcast his distress.

The sound drowned out John's sharp breath of surprise. At best, he had hoped Sherlock would hide it again, an invisible relief for those times when everything got too much. He thought it would be sequestered away, concealed from John's knowledge but not from Sherlock's: a sinister security blanket.

This was another matter entirely. This was Sherlock making the choice John had not dared to voice for fear he would lose. He had never said "it's me or the cocaine", because it was an empty threat. Regardless of the response, he would have stayed. Now, Sherlock had made the decision without prompting, and all the anxiety that coiled, sharp and abrupt in the pit of his stomach, vanished like smoke, replaced with the heady swell of pride.

Gently, he took it from Sherlock's loose grip, setting it decisively on the bedside table before reaching for that slim hand and pulling him to his feet. He would do as Sherlock asked – would banish the spectre into Greg's custody before the day came to an end – but right now this was not about the drugs. It was about the man he had tied himself to, first as a friend and then as a lover. It had been a huge risk; objectively, John knew that. Sherlock could break him apart as easily as he made him whole. Yet every day, he proved to John that his trust had been perfectly placed.

Words caught in his throat, framed syllables without voice as John tried to convey everything he felt. Sherlock was trembling, the languor of sex a fading memory. It hadn't been painless, surrendering the syringe, that much was obvious. Yet even as he looked for regret in Sherlock's gaze and found its shadow, John could not condemn it. He had spent his life with addicts like his sister, and he knew they were never cured of their obsession. It lingered still, an endless temptation, but it was one Sherlock seemed determined to resist.

'Thank you.'

John wrapped his arms around Sherlock's back, his hungry kiss an effort to show him a glimpse of the sentiments unfurling within him: gratitude and relief, fierce elation and humble amazement. The taste of Sherlock's mouth was exhilarating, snatching away what little air John had as he poured himself into his adoration. His lover responded, strong and sure. It was a reciprocation of faith – a wordless declaration that, for one another, they would always try and fight their demons.

Later there would be reheated take-away and crap telly, laughter and peace. Lestrade would meet John at the front door, taking the box and its contents with a jubilant grin: a victory they'd never dared to hope for. For now, though, John relished this moment, one where they stood in each other's arms, proving Shaw wrong.

Sherlock didn't need the drugs to shine. He had John, and together, they were incandescent.


A/N: And that's it! Thank you, everyone, for your huge support and encouragement while writing this fic. It's been an amazing ride! To keep up with new projects and such, you can always follow me on beautifulfic DoT Tumblr DoT com

This is the last piece I will be posting on this archive. All future works will be over at AO3. For details on where to find me there, and how to keep in touch, please check out my profile :)
Much love,
B xxx